Look carefully and you can see Vane Tower on all these old pictures . Click on the picture to enlarge it
Vane Tower has stood at the top of Vane Hill since 1872 and its lofty position gives some great views over Torbay and the surrounding hills.
During World War II the Home Guard used the tower as a look-out post for approaching enemy aircraft. The government requisitioned the building and made it into a convalescent home for injured servicemen.
The Germans carried out more than 40 bombing raids on the town because Torquay was a military training area. So Vane Tower narrowly escaped when two bombs hit a building in nearby Park Hill Road in 1941
But natural disasters proved deadlier . In February 1910 lightning struck the house. Historian Arthur Charles Ellis recorded that “much damage was caused…” Nowadays, Vane Tower has a lightning conductor.
The Blacker Family
Today Vane Tower is divided into three separate properties but it was one enormous house at the time of the lightning strike. The Blacker family owned it and lived here from 1906-1922. Head of the family Charles Blacker had been close friends with Oscar Wilde. Wilde described him as “the best dressed man in London” and dedicated his book The Happy Prince & Other Tales to Blacker.
However, the two men fell out in 1898 over the infamous Dreyfus affair. This is detailed in the book Ceremonies of Bravery by J Robert Maguire. If you are interested there is a copy in the tower.
Blacker married Caroline Frost, an American heiress. They moved to Vane Tower in 1906 with their two sons Carlos Paton Blacker (CPB) and Robin. While living here, Blacker struck up a friendship with playwright and Nobel prize winner George Bernard Shaw.
George Bernard Shaw was of great comfort to the couple when Robin was killed in 1915. Robin was a casualty of the First World War and was only 18 years old. You can see his name on the War Memorial in Princess Gardens.
CPB won medals in both world wars for his bravery and had a distinguished medical career. He wrote book called Have You Forgotten Yet about this war experiences. You can find out more about him and the family here: https://history.rcplondon.ac.uk/inspiring-physicians/carlos-Bpaton-blacker
Inspired by a villa on Lake Lugano
According to Historic England, Vane Tower “is said to have been built for the first American Ambassador to England.” But there is no evidence of that in the deeds and there was no American Ambassador at the time. However, the building was sold to Caleb Gaskell Evans from New York in 1923. Maybe this is where the story of the American Ambassador originated.